TheNewsCenter | Parkersburg, West Virginia | News, Weather & Sports

Sheltering In Place: What It Means


Updated: 4/19/2013 6:20 P.M.

We first heard of the phrase "shelter in place" in the wake of the Bhopal tragedy; used to protect residents against chemical releases. But police use it more routinely than that.

A recent example came last year, when a man barricaded himself inside a Broad Street home, located near the Parkersburg YMCA. In a case like that, shelter in place has two purposes:

"One, being preventing people from being hit by bullets if a firefight takes place," says Sgt. Greg Collins of the Parkersburg Police Department. "The second is, when officers are trying to control a scene or perimeter, they don't know if the suspect has come out of the house. You don't want to be mistaken for the suspect. You could be shot by police officers if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The Mid-Ohio Valley isn't the Boston area. But Sgt. Collins wouldn't rule out a situation similar to the search in progress in Massachusetts.

"They're in a very densely populated area. It sounds like they're not certain where this person is, so they have to open their perimeter to a larger area. We could absolutely have that if we are looking for somebody."
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Updated: 4/16/2013 5:45 P.M

It turned out to be just a precaution.

But Parkersburg police and firefighters were called out Wednesday to Criss Elementary School.

Wood County Schools Spokeswoman Sue Woodward says two backpacks were found on school grounds.

No explosives or anything suspicious was found.

Woodward says it's believed the backpacks might have been left behind when school buses dropped off youngsters at school this morning.

She says the concern about them was a result of this week's events in Boston.

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While they might not be on the same level as the Boston Marathon, thousands of people attend weekend events throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley. The Ohio River Sternwheel Festival's largest crowds are on Saturday night, when the fireworks display takes place. And that can be a problem for law enforcement officers making sure it's safe.

"It's sometimes also hard to get through crowds if someone needs emergency assistance," says Major Brian Shuck, of the Washington County Sheriff's Office. "You often have to push your way to the crowds to get to the levee. But security is well maintained by the sternwheel festival board, and the Marietta Police Department is there to assist in anything that happens."

The closest event to the Boston Marathon is the News and Sentinel half-marathon. Considering it's a 13-mile road race covering much of the city, it's an "all hands on deck" situation for police.

"Their vacations are cancelled," notes Sgt. Greg Collins, of the Parkersburg Police Department. "Practically the whole Parkersburg Police force, supported by the Wood County Sheriff's Office, DNR, West Virginia State Police, are working this event.

Officials say they do everything they can to make sure these events are safe. But they admit, safety is a goal, not a guarantee.

Local agencies remind the public they, too, can keep an eye out for possibly suspicious people. What they add, however, is, people should not stop going to these events.

"Terrorists win when they can control your behavior, and alter it to where things you used to be able to do you can't do any more," says Capt. Jeff Waite, of the Marietta Police Department. "So we say, get out, and do the normal things you would do."

But they add, the days all police had to look for were intoxcated patrons, officially ended after 9-11.

Police add they welcome photographs or video of any suspected suspicious activity.


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